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In the private charter flights industry, most passengers assume the charter company they have chosen has an exceptional safety compliance record. Passengers may review a private charter company’s website for “proof” of FAA compliance, but often that isn’t enough.

After all, what private aircraft operator would want to violate FAA regulations?

Turns out, there are many illegal charter flight companies that do not follow safety protocol.

Illegal Charter Flights Surge

In central Florida, a surge in illegal charter flight operators has grown exponentially in the past few years. The Jacksonville Business Journal recently published an article exposing this growing issue impacting the private aviation industry around the country.

Why the surge in activity? With recent tax code changes, more entities are purchasing privately-owned aircraft classified for “general aviation”. The aircraft owners often allow others to rent their aircraft when not in use – similar to vacation rentals – for charter flights.

A tax code loophole has emerged that allows owners to rent their aircraft to others as equipment rentals for general aviation purposes, which enables the owners to bypass FAA inspections and other regulations.

Charter flight companies recognized by the FAA as registered commercial operators (like Davinci Jets) cannot bypass these regulatory requirements without risking their ability to continue operations. The investment to maintain this FAA-compliance is significant.

General aviation operators, who skirt the regulations through loopholes, have a much lower operating costs. Therefore, they can charge less for their “charter” flights, making it impossible for the FAA-compliant, commercial operators to compete on price.

Why is this a concern? Passenger safety.

Passenger Safety on Charter Flights

Passenger safety on illegal charter flights classified as “general aviation” is the biggest concern. Often unaware of the differences between a commercial operator and a general aviation license, passengers can be lured into purchasing an illegal charter flight because of the lower prices offered by the “general aviation” flights.

Illegal charters take many forms and pose risks for consumers and operators alike.

This year alone has seen two plane crashes involving non-FAA (unlicensed) charter flights. Emiliano Sola, a rising star in European soccer, died in a January plane crash over the English Channel. In March, a flight between Tampa and Palm Beach Country, Florida, crashed, killing five passengers on board.

Because of crashes like those mentioned, the FAA is increasing its efforts to crack down on the illegal charter flight industry.

FAA Charter Flight Recommendations

How can those booking charter flights protect themselves?

The FAA highlights several red flags to look for when booking a charter flight.

  • If the company provides the aircraft and at least one crew-member yet attempts to transfer operational control to a customer via any document.

  • A lack of Federal Excise Tax (FET) charged to the customer. Legitimate operators must charge this. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Lack of a safety briefing or passenger briefing cards.

  • Any evasiveness to questions or concerns. Legitimate operators should be transparent and helpful.

  • If the pilot or someone associated with the company coaches passengers on what to say or do if an FAA inspector meets the aircraft at its destination.

Why Book Charter Flights With Davinci Jets?

As commercial operators, Davinci Jets maintains FAA-compliance in its facility and on all aircraft flown and managed. We hold ourselves to strict safety standards and are proud to be certified by the IS-BAO as well as Wyvern Safety. For our asset management clients, we maintain their aircraft with precision, care, and detail.

“We at Davinci Jets pride ourselves on our uncompromising safety standards and meticulous attention to detail. Each flight carries someone’s family members, friends, and spouses, and we never lose sight of this.

We make it our top priority to ensure a safe flight every time our crew boards an aircraft. Anyone booking a charter flight or looking for aircraft management should expect nothing less.” - Julie Layne, Vice President of Customer Experience, Davinci Jets.


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